handcuffed arrested man behind prison bars

Are There Alternatives to Going to Jail?

The Linder Firm Oct. 17, 2022

If you are facing criminal charges in Texas, the worst thing that can happen to you is going to jail or prison. Since incarceration is the worst possible outcome for any person facing criminal charges, many defendants wonder,Are there alternatives to going to jail?” Fortunately, yes. Depending on the charges and the circumstances of your case, you may qualify for alternative sentencing.  

The criminal defense attorney at The Linder Firm offers reliable legal guidance to people facing criminal charges in Dallas, Texas, and throughout North Texas. If you are looking to explore the alternative sentencing options available to you, reach out to Attorney Phillip Linder for a consultation. He can review your unique situation and explain your best course of action.   

What Is Alternative Sentencing?  

According to the Vera Institute of Justice, the total population in Texas jails skyrocketed by over 500% between 1970 and 2015. The total number of inmates in Texas prisons saw an increase of nearly 330% between 1983 and 2018.  

Given the jail and prison overcrowding in Texas, state law authorizes alternative sentencing for eligible individuals. As the name suggests, alternative sentencing allows defendants who meet specific requirements to avoid incarceration.  

An alternative sentence allows the convicted individual to stay out of jail or prison while reducing the number of inmates in Texas facilities and saving the taxpayers’ money. Instead of going to jail or prison, offenders can contribute to their community and develop valuable skills.  


This type of sentencing alternative diverts a defendant’s case out of the court system, hence the name “diversion.” Texas law offers defendants various diversion programs. However, not everyone facing criminal charges in Texas is eligible for diversion. Texas recognizes the following diversion programs: 

  1. First-time drug offender program 

  1. Diversion program for first-time offenders who committed non-violent crimes 

  1. Deferred prosecution program for offenders aged 17 to 26 at the time of the offense 

  1. Mental health diversion for offenders suffering from mental impairment 

  1. Diversion program for veterans 

Offenders must meet certain eligibility requirements to qualify for pre-trial diversion in Texas: 

  • Have no prior arrests on record 

  • Plead guilty to the criminal charges 

  • Have no connections to a gang 

  • Have no history involving a pre-trial diversion in the past 

  • The offense is a misdemeanor 

  • The offense is not related to family violence or sex crimes 

If you wonder about alternative sentencing options but are not sure whether you are eligible for pre-trial diversion, speak with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to discuss your unique situation.  

House Arrest  

In some cases, the offender may be allowed to remain confined in their residence instead of spending the sentence in prison. Typically, offenders on house arrest will wear a monitoring device that tracks their location and alerts authorities any time the offender leaves the permissible area.  

Of course, house arrest is a much better alternative to going to jail. However, not everyone qualifies for this alternative sentencing option. Eligibility requirements for house arrest include: 

  • A first-time offender 

  • A juvenile offender 

  • The offense does not involve violence 

In addition, Texas courts consider whether the offender has a steady job and is not a threat to society when determining whether house arrest is justifiable.  

Community Service  

Community service is a type of alternative sentence that allows the offender to perform unpaid work for the benefit of the community. Typically, the offender is ordered to perform a specific number of hours doing community work. Common examples of community service include: 

  • Doing unpaid work in the community 

  • Doing work for a public agency or non-profit organization 

  • Working at a homeless or animal shelter 

  • Giving speeches at schools or events to educate the people about the ramifications of the behavior involved in the crime 

Where possible, a criminal defense attorney representing a defendant facing charges will try to convince the judge to order community service in lieu of imprisonment.  


Probation may also be available as an alternative sentencing option for eligible offenders. Probation can either eliminate or reduce the time served in prison. Often, judges order probation along with house arrest and the requirement to wear a monitoring device. If the offender fails to follow the conditions of probation, they may be sentenced to jail or prison.  

Diversion, house arrest, community service, and probation are not the only alternative sentencing options that may be available to defendants facing criminal charges in Texas. Consider speaking with a skilled criminal defense attorney to find the most appropriate alternative sentencing option for your particular situation.  

Take Legal Action Today

If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges, consider contacting an attorney as soon as possible to explore your alternative sentencing options. A criminal defense attorney at The Linder Firm can review your charges and identify the available options to help you avoid going to jail. With an office in Dallas, Texas, Attorney Phillip Linder serves clients throughout Dallas Metro and North Texas. Contact The Linder Firm today for a case review.